Expedia last week completed its acquisition of smaller competitor Orbitz Worldwide.
With its $1.34 billion price tag, the acquisition cost Expedia $12 a share and lengthened its position over Priceline Group as the world's largest OTA by number of bookings.
Expedia and Orbitz combined accounted for $35.6 billion in bookings during the first six months of the year, compared with Priceline's $28.7 billion. Priceline remains the world's largest OTA by revenue, generating $4.12 billion through June, compared with $3.5 billion for Expedia and Orbitz combined.
"Given Orbitz's focus on transforming the way consumers around the world plan and book travel, we couldn't be more aligned," Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement on Sept. 17.
Expedia, which announced the buyout in February, cleared its last hurdle toward the acquisition last week when the U.S. Department of Justice completed a six-month appraisal of the deal and concluded that the buyout would neither threaten competition nor hurt consumers.
Expedia and Priceline, which together now account for about 95% of the U.S. OTA market, continue to acquire smaller companies as they battle for market share worldwide. In addition to Orbitz, Expedia acquired Travelocity for $280 million in January. Last year, it bought out Australia-based OTA Wotif for $612 million and acquired a majority stake in German metasearch firm Trivago for about $630 million.
Priceline acquired online restaurant reservations service OpenTable for $2.6 billion last year and paid $1.8 billion for metasearch leader Kayak in 2013.
Earlier this year, Priceline boosted its stake in Ctrip International, China's largest OTA.
In a Sept. 17 note to investors, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Naved Khan wrote, "We see a number of strategic advantages for Expedia from the acquisition, including 1) addition of several high-quality brands owned by Orbitz, Orbitz.com, CheapTickets, Ebookers and HotelClub; 2) ownership of Orbitz Partner Network and Orbitz for business, which we believe are superior offerings (technologically) to Expedia's Egencia; and 3) potential benefits from Orbitz' unique "Orbucks" loyalty program, which has helped drive customer retention and loyalty for Orbitz."
Khan rated Expedia a "buy."
In a study released last November, Phocuswright reported that Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity combined to account for about three-quarters of U.S. bookings through OTAs, while Priceline accounted for another 19%.
Still, with companies like Google, Amazon and TripAdvisor expanding their presence in the travel-bookings arena, the DOJ determined that a combined Expedia-Orbitz wouldn't account for a large enough share of that sector to stifle competition.
Last month, the hotel trade group American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) filed an objection to the deal with DOJ, asserting that the buyout could boost consumer costs while hurting smaller hotel operators.
The AH&LA said last week that it was "disappointed" in DOJ's decision.
"This decision will hurt consumers and small business owners, and remove choice from the marketplace," the AH&LA said in a separate statement.
Khan said "the potential accretion from the deal could be even higher" than the $75 million in reduced operating costs Expedia estimated the acquisition would produce.